CHICAGO — Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson did not find sufficient evidence to sustain allegations that three police lieutenants cheated on the August 2015 Chicago Police Department promotion exam, the city's watchdog announced Wednesday.
The investigation — sparked by claims first reported by DNAinfo in April 2016 — examined allegations that now-retired Chicago Deputy Police Supt. Eugene Williams — a "subject matter expert" who helped create the test — shared privileged information in a study group about the most recent test used to promote sergeants to lieutenants.
That study group included a number of people, including Lt. Maryet Hall, who is married to former First Deputy Police Supt. Al Wysinger, who was the Police Department's No. 2 in command until he retired in 2015; Lt. Nakia Fenner, Supt. Eddie Johnson's fianceé; and Lt. Davina Ward, according to documents obtained by DNAinfo.
None of the lieutenants are referred to by name in Ferguson's report, nor is the former deputy chief.
Two members of the Police Department who made the complaints about the exam said they were deeply disappointed by Ferguson's findings.
"What a f------- joke," one complainant said. "They didn't do their job."
The other officer who filed the complaint said it was "disgusting" the former sergeants had been cleared.
DNAinfo is not naming the two Police Department employees who filed complaints because they fear retaliation for taking action against the department's top brass.
While ending the investigation, Ferguson blasted the Police Department's Bureau of Internal Affairs for not sending the complaint to his office in a timely manner.
"The 13-month delay before OIG received any complaints related to the exam hindered timely inquiry and may have contributed to the widespread failed recollections OIG investigators encountered in the course of the investigation,” Ferguson said.
Williams and the three lieutenants could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.
Ferguson said the Police Department should take steps to root out the widespread belief that promotions are rigged.
"Historically based perceptions of preferential treatment in CPD promotional processes could be mitigated by instituting more rigorous controls in the promotional examination process," Ferguson said.
As part of the probe, Ferguson's office reviewed 300,000 emails and interviewed 20 people, including Williams, "some" of the officers accused of cheating on the test as well as employees of the firm that administered the test, according to Ferguson's findings.
The probe included an in-depth analysis of the exam results by the developer of the test that found no "statistical anomalies," according to Ferguson's findings.
"No firsthand witnesses or accounts of cheating emerged prior to or during the course of OIG’s investigation," Ferguson wrote.
Navarro praised the investigation conducted by Ferguson, who was just appointed to a third four-year term.
"CPD applauds the OIG for conducting such an exhaustive and thorough investigation which directly addressed the veracity of these misconduct allegations," First Deputy Supt. Kevin Navarro wrote in response to Ferguson's findings.
In addition, Ferguson's probe found that the accused sergeants — Fenner, Ward and Hall, according to documents obtained by DNAinfo — formed a study group in late 2012 or 2013 and met twice a month for two years before the exam was announced. After the date was set for the exam, the group — which was open to all sergeants — met weekly, according to Ferguson's findings.
The three sergeants also formed a smaller study group along with two others, and met in a conference room on the third floor that shared a wall with Williams' office.
"The chief acknowledged seeing this group studying once or twice, but only exchanging pleasantries with them. Sergeants named in the complaint had conflicting recollections regarding any interaction with the chief," Ferguson wrote.
Williams was sent several emails with questions about the exam, but never responded to any of them, according to Ferguson's findings.
"OIG’s investigation revealed no evidence that the chief was involved in any way in any study group," Ferguson said. "OIG identified no evidence that the chief provided confidential information to sergeants taking the exam."
Fenner, Ward and Hall, all members of that study group, scored in the top 25 out of the 601 test takers. Hall received the top score.
Ferguson's office recommended that no member of the Police Department have access to the final version of promotional exams — as Williams did — to ensure the test is kept confidential.
"As long as CPD allows one of its members to have access to the final version of a test, its integrity is vulnerable to charges that the CPD member leaked questions," Ferguson wrote.
Three other recommendations from Ferguson's office encourage the department to change the way test takers can ask officials questions about the exams and how complaints should be handled by department brass.
The allegations of cheating contributed to a "narrative among the rank-and-file that CPD does not value good leadership and that current leaders are unfit to lead," according to the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into the Chicago Police Department released in January.
Despite efforts by city and police officials to reform the ways officers move up through the ranks, officers view the promotions system with "skepticism," which has lowered officer morale and undermined effective supervision, according to the report.
City officials should take steps to increase the system's transparency and ensure officers "who are willing and able to provide officers with adequate supervision, guide them on how to police effectively and constitutionally, and hold them accountable when necessary," are promoted, federal officials recommended.
That is "critical to preventing, detecting, and appropriately responding to unreasonable uses of force," according to the report.
In addition, promotion exams should be offered more frequently to offer qualified officers additional opportunities to advance and reduce frustration, according to the report.
The inspector general's office reviewed one million emails and computer files during the probe.